Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
|Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Herek|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Box office||$40.5 million|
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a 1989 American science fiction comedy film directed by Stephen Herek and written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. The film is apart of the Bill & Ted (franchise). It stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, and George Carlin. The plot follows slacker friends Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves), who travel through time to assemble historical figures for their high school history presentation.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure received generally positive reviews and was a success at the box office, grossing $40.5 million against a $6.5 million budget.
In 2688, humanity exists as a utopian society due to the inspiration of the music and philosophy of the Two Great Ones, Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan. One of the citizens, Rufus, is tasked by the leaders to travel back to San Dimas, California in 1988 using a time machine shaped like a phone booth to ensure that the young Bill and Ted, then dim-witted high school students, successfully pass a history class. Should they fail, Ted's father, police captain Logan, plans to ship Ted to a military academy in Alaska, ending Bill & Ted's fledgling band, the "Wyld Stallyns", and altering history.
Rufus finds the two teenagers struggling to finish their history paper, which tasks them to describe how three historical figures would view the present San Dimas, trying to obtain help from customers at a local Circle K convenience store. Rufus initially has difficulty convincing the two of his help when a copy of the phone booth time machine arrives, and versions of Bill and Ted from some hours in the future step out. They are able to convince their earlier selves that Rufus can be trusted by correctly guessing the number the two were thinking of: 69. The future Bill and Ted briefly discuss their situation with Rufus before disappearing.
Rufus offers the pair a demonstration of the time machine, taking them back to 1805 where they find Napoleon Bonaparte leading his forces against Austria. As Rufus, Bill and Ted depart back to the present, Napoleon is thrown by a cannonball explosion into their wake, and is dragged through the Circuits of Time to the present. Rufus takes a moment to explain that time will continue to progress normally for Bill and Ted and they cannot miss their class presentation the next day, and then departs, leaving the empty time machine for the two. As Bill and Ted discuss where to go next, they discover Napoleon stuck in a nearby tree. This gives them the idea of kidnapping historical figures and bringing them to the present to complete their report. They leave Napoleon with Ted's younger brother Deacon before travelling.
The two are able to successfully befriend Billy the Kid and Socrates, before stopping in 15th century England, where they become infatuated with Princesses Elizabeth and Joanna. This leads to them getting in trouble with their father the King, but Billy and Socrates rescue the pair, and the four escape, though the booth is partially damaged on their departure. They end up in the far future, discovering the society based on their influence, and are inspired to complete their report with "extra credit" by kidnapping additional historical figures: Sigmund Freud, Ludwig van Beethoven, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, and Abraham Lincoln. After a brief stop in prehistoric times to repair the booth, Bill and Ted program the machine to return to the present, but end up outside the Circle K on the night before, where Rufus was introducing himself to them. Bill and Ted convince their earlier selves of Rufus' trustworthiness, and then are reminded by Rufus of how to get to the next day.
When they arrive, Ted learns that Deacon had ditched Napoleon. They leave the other historical figures at the local mall to learn about San Dimas while they seek out Napoleon at a local water park, "Waterloop" ("Waterloo"). While gone, the historical figures get into trouble and are arrested by Captain Logan.
Bill and Ted execute an escape plan based on using the time machine in the future to set up what they need in the present. With all their historical figures recollected, the two give their presentation to the school, which is a rousing success, allowing them to pass the course.
Some time later, Rufus returns to Bill and Ted, presenting them with the two princesses before they were committed to pre-arranged marriages, noting that the two women will also be part of Wyld Stallyns. Rufus asks to join the group as they play, but upon hearing their cacophony of music, admits to the audience that "they do get better".
- Keanu Reeves as Ted ‘’Theodore’’ Logan
- Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston, Esq.
- George Carlin as Rufus
- Terry Camilleri as Napoleon Bonaparte
- Dan Shor as Billy the Kid
- Tony Steedman as Socrates
- Rod Loomis as Sigmund Freud
- Al Leong as Genghis Khan
- Jane Wiedlin as Joan of Arc
- Robert V. Barron as Abraham Lincoln
- Clifford David as Ludwig van Beethoven
- Hal Landon Jr. as Captain Jonathan Logan, Ted's and Deacon’s father
- Bernie Casey as Mr. Ryan, Bill and Ted's history teacher
- Amy Stock-Poynton as Missy Preston, Bill's stepmother
- J. Patrick McNamara as Mr. Preston, Bill's father
- Frazier Bain as Deacon Logan, Ted's younger brother
- John Karlsen as Evil Duke
- Diane Franklin as Princess Elizabeth
- Kimberley LaBelle as Princess Joanna
- Clarence Clemons, Martha Davis, and Fee Waybill as The Three Most Important People in the World
The screenplay was written by Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson in early 1987, based on a comedy stand-up routine they had performed while in college. Director Stephen Herek called the screenplay "incredibly laugh-out-loud", but recognized that because of some of the off-center humor targeting a specific audience, the film was "either going to be a huge hit or a huge flop". Herek stated that shopping the film for distributors was difficult; Warner Bros. wanted to produce it within a US$10 million budget, but could not figure out how to fund it. The film ended up being picked up by Dino de Laurentiis through the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG).
In a 1991 interview, co-writer Ed Solomon said the characters of Bill and Ted were originally envisaged as "14-year-old skinny guys, with low-rider bell-bottoms and heavy metal T-shirts" who were despised by the popular kids at school. Casting Reeves and Winter changed the filmmakers' images of the characters because "...once you cast Alex and Keanu, who look like pretty cool guys, that was hard to believe".
Originally as a spec script, the film had been called Bill & Ted's Time Van. While the core plot was similar, with Bill & Ted on the verge of failing their history class and threatening to ruin their idea of forming a band together, events in the spec script initiated when the pair had borrowed a van from their 28-year-old friend Rufus. While driving the van, they ended up in Nazi Germany, and after some hijinks, bring Adolf Hitler back to San Dimas in the present while they continue to collect other historical figures. Solomon affirmed this clearly became problematic, and Hitler was switched out with Napoleon in their final script. Other concepts in the spec script that were dropped included more involvement of Bill & Ted's classmates including having them travel in time with them, visiting Julius Caesar in the Roman Empire and ending up causing his death, and befriending a caveman in the prehistorical age as to help him invent fire so that they could light up a joint. The van, originally to be a 1969 Chevrolet, was abandoned as being too close in concept to the DeLorean used in the Back to the Future trilogy. In earlier drafts of the script, other historical figures Bill and Ted plucked from history included Charlemagne (whom they referred to as "Charlie Mangay"), Babe Ruth, and a non-famous medieval person called "John the Serf". John is listed in the credits.
Herek screened between 200 and 300 actors for the main roles, asking actors to try for both parts during auditions. Pauly Shore was among the hundreds of actors considered for the role of Ted, while River Phoenix, Sean Penn and then-upcoming actor Brendan Fraser reportedly auditioned for Bill.
Keanu Reeves was one of the first to audition, and Herek quickly identified him as their Ted, making much of the rest of casting to find a match against Reeves. Alongside Reeves, 24 actors were called back and auditioned in various pairs to find a good chemistry. On that day, Reeves was one of the first to arrive along with Alex Winter, and while waiting for the auditions to start, found out they had a lot of personal details in common, such as a common interest in bass guitar and motorcycles. They quickly developed a rapport between each other during auditions, which earned them the title roles. A longstanding urban legend has it that Reeves auditioned for Bill and Winter for Ted. According to Winter, the story emerged because the characters are so similar, and even he and Reeves sometimes became confused about who was who.
Through rehearsals, Winter and Reeves worked on developing their Bill & Ted characters to move them away from being stereotypical comedic slackers and insert sincerity and other more human elements into them. While they developed mannerisms outside of the script, influenced partially by British comedians like Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, the pair kept to the dialog written by Solomon and Mathseon, with Winter calling it "very floral, so paradoxical to how you think dumb Valley guys would speak". Winter said that to develop Bill's character, he borrowed from the looks and trends along Venice Beach, California, where he had been living, including wearing a baseball cap backwards and pulling part of his hair through that opening.
Winter said of casting George Carlin as Rufus as a "very happy accident". The role of Rufus had not been established when filming started. Herek stated that their intention was to have Eddie Van Halen as Rufus, given the frequency of Van Halen references in the screenplay, but this was not possible because of the low budget for the film. They started looking at other actors who would fit the rock motif, making a short list that had included Ringo Starr, Roger Daltrey, Sean Connery, and Charlie Sheen. They soon recognized that no one on this list was a comedian. Producers Scott Kroopf and Bob Cort had just finished filming Outrageous Fortune which co-starred George Carlin, and with the film's production nearly complete, were able to get him to complete filming.
The Three Most Important People in the utopian society were envisioned to be portrayed by the band members of ZZ Top. However, Solomon had connections to the E Street Band, The Tubes and The Motels, and were able to get Clarence Clemons, Fee Waybill, and Martha Davis, respectively, for the Most Important People.
The film's writers, Solomon and Matheson, appear in the film's ice cream scene as the "stupid" and "ugly" waiters, respectively. When Rufus plays his guitar solo, the hands in the close-up are those of Stevie Salas, who composed the film's guitar music.
The film was shot on a US$8.5 million budget over a period of 10 weeks, including two weeks in Italy. As Herek was going after the same comedic approach to history as in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, they brought in its production designer, Roy Forge Smith, for this film. Principal filming was shot in 1987 in the Phoenix, Arizona and Tempe, Arizona metropolitan areas. Many scenes were filmed in and around Scottsdale's Coronado High School. Coronado's auditorium was torn down during 2005-07 renovations, but its unique roof and intricate exterior mosaic, seen in an opening scene when Bill and Ted leave school in a red Mustang, was saved and moved, piece by piece, to the new auditorium. The interior shots of the auditorium were filmed inside the East High School auditorium, which was in Phoenix on 48th Street just north of Van Buren. East High School was demolished in 2002 as part of a redevelopment project. The production also shot a sequence on the Western Street on the back lot of Southwestern Studio in Carefree, Arizona.
The scenes at Waterloo are a combination of establishing shots at Raging Waters in San Dimas and shots with the actors at Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa, Arizona. Because of the limited budget, they could not close down the waterparks for filming, and thus, all those in the background of these shots were paying customers to the waterparks on those days. The bowling alley was a Fair Lanes-branded alley at that time but is now the AMF Tempe Village Lanes on Rural Road at US 60, three miles south of Arizona State University. The mall was Phoenix Metrocenter, between Peoria and Dunlap Avenues at Interstate 17. It has since been renovated and no longer looks as it did in the film. The Circle K store is at the intersection of Southern and Hardy in Tempe.
The film also employs computer-generated imagery for the scenes where Bill & Ted are travelling through the 'Circuits of Time', created by the VFX house Perpetual Motion Pictures in Tempe. Winter called the experience of filming these booths difficult because in order to come up with the desired effects, the filming required multiple people to stand inside the booth, which was on a gimbal in front of a green screen. Numerous equipment and prop failures ensued, and Reeves has called it "a death ride canoe from the worst carny ride you’ve ever been on".
Initially, the film had ended with Bill & Ted giving their report within a small classroom, passing their class, and then going to the prom with the rescued princesses. The production team recognized this felt underwhelming, and created the larger auditorium presentation as to give a better sense of scale, with a sound and light show to make it more dramatic setting.
The initial cut of the film was 2 hours and 25 minutes long, and was pruned significantly. One such filmed scene was a lengthy choreographed song number that would have led off the film, starting with Bill & Ted dancing via air-guitaring on their way to school and ended up getting bullied by jocks once they arrived. In February 2020, Winter found some stills from the filmed version of the scene on an old hard drive and shared them on the Internet with some additional details on its production. Winter believed that Kenny Ortega had been involved in establishing the choreography based on the time period and his recollection. Winter said neither he nor Reeves could dance prior to shooting this scene, so the scene was rehearsed for roughly an hour a day across several weeks concurrent to other parts of filming. Winter identified other scenes that he recalled filming that had been cut, including a scene involving a prom, and a running gag involving the pudding cups and the "John the Serf" character that remained in the films credits. While they had tried to find the film reels with this cut footage, Winter said that with the fate of DEG following film, it is likely lost.
The picture had been planned for a 1988 release, and filming and production had completed on schedule. However, the original film distributor, DEG, fell into significant debt in late 1987, and by 1988 had filed for bankruptcy. At this point, the film was in post-production, and Herek attempted to show around the rough cut to other distributors. Henek said many of these companies were confused, asking him "Are there kids that really speak like this?" on seeing the film. However, the cut had an extremely popular reaction from a test audience of volunteers pulled from local malls, which led to a small bidding war from production companies to get the title. Some of the former DEG executives ended up at Nelson Entertainment, and along with Orion Pictures, were able to secure new distribution rights for the film by 1988 for about US$1 million.
Bill & Ted had its theatrical release on February 17, 1989. It was followed in 1991 by a sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure grossed $40.4 million domestically on a budget of about $10 million.
Despite strong ticket sales compared to the budget, critical reviews were more mixed, especially at the time. The film has an 80% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 49 reviews with an average rating of 6.57/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are just charming, goofy, and silly enough to make this fluffy time-travel Adventure work". On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 44 out of 100, based on 7 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
The Washington Post gave the film a negative review, finding the script written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon as "made only the sketchiest attempts to draw their historical characters. They exist as foils and nothing else, and the gags that are hung on them are far from first-rate", and that if director "Stephen Herek, has any talent for comedy, it's not visible here. More than anything, the picture looks paltry and undernourished." Variety wrote about each historical figure that Bill & Ted meet, stating that "Each encounter is so brief and utterly cliched that history has little chance to contribute anything to this pic’s two dimensions." Vincent Canby of The New York Times referred to the film as a "painfully inept comedy" and that the "one dimly interesting thing about Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is the way the two teen-age heroes communicate in superlatives. We are about to fail most egregiously, says Ted to Bill, or maybe it's Bill to Ted. They are also fond of odd words, such as bodacious." In the Los Angeles Times, Chris Willman was also unimpressed, concluding: "Make no mistake, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure […] is not a satire of mindlessness; it's unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness' sake. Bill and Ted are heroic in their ability to reduce some of history's great minds to their level. However, writing for Radio Times, Alan Jones decided: "A nonstop giggle from start to finish, this beguiling grab-bag of time-travel clichés, hard-rock music and Valley-speaking cool dudes is a flawless, purpose-built junk movie".
A phone booth used in the sequel was given away in a contest presented by Nintendo Power magazine, to promote Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure. It was won by Kenneth Grayson of Mississippi.
In 2010, the city of San Dimas celebrated 50 years of incorporation. The celebration's slogan was San Dimas, 1960–2010 – An Excellent Adventure.
Writing in The Guardian on the occasion of the film's 25th anniversary, Hadley Freeman found: "Of all the delightfully improbable scenarios depicted in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure – from Napoleon Bonaparte causing havoc on a waterslide to Billy the Kid and Socrates (a.k.a. "So-crayts", of course) picking up chicks in a California mall to George Carlin acting in a film alongside Keanu Reeves and a member of the Go-Go's – none would have seemed more unlikely on its release than the idea that one day, with much media fanfare, the public would be celebrating the film's 25th anniversary. By the time Bill & Ted was released in 1989, the 80s teen film explosion was starting to taper out. [...] Moreover, there had already been plenty of films about time-travelling teens by the time Bill & Ted rocked up in cinemas, such as Peggy Sue Got Married and Back to the Future. Few who were around then would have bet that a goofy movie about a pair of California metalheads skipping back through time in a phonebox collecting historical characters to bring back to 20th-century California for their history report would still be remembered today. But I am very much among those few".
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
In cultural analysis
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure does not tend to be rated as one of cinema's profounder treatments of the relationship between present and past. The story of two Californian slackers with a time machine who, for complicated reasons, have to assemble assorted celebrities from history in order to pass a high-school project, it is chiefly remembered for bringing Keanu Reeves to the attention of a mass audience. Classicists, however, will always cherish it as the only film ever to combine the music of Van Halen with Greek philosophy. When Bill and Ted embark on their quest, what should be their first destination if not classical Athens, and who should be the very first 'historical dude' bundled into their time machine if not a bald-headed man in a sheet whom they persist in calling 'Soh-kraytz'?"
Even to metalheads, then, the philosophy of ancient Greece serves as something that is both primal and emblematic of civilisation as a whole. Socrates, in particular, the 'lover of wisdom' who insisted that the most fundamental presumptions of his countrymen should be subjected to experimental investigation, and who ended up being made to drink hemlock for his pains, has always been admired as the very fountainhead of rationalism. Yet when it comes to identifying what he taught and believed, there is a problem, on which Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, rather unexpectedly, puts its finger. Socrates, transplanted to 1980s California, can only communicate with his abductors by gesturing and gurning – since Bill and Ted, it goes without saying, speak not a word of ancient Greek. Even the miracle of time travel, it appears, cannot serve to alter what is, for any historian, a most awkward fact: that it is impossible to be certain of what Socrates actually said.
The film was mentioned as an example of pop-culture time travel in the 2019 blockbuster film Avengers: Endgame. An epsiode in the 2020 series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was also named after the film.
|Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Genre||Hard rock, heavy metal, glam rock, glam metal, pop rock, rock 'n' roll|
The film's soundtrack was released in 1989. The tracks are as follows:
- "Play with Me" by Extreme
- "The Boys and Girls Are Doing It" by Vital Signs
- "Not So Far Away" by Glen Burtnik
- "Dancing with a Gypsy" by Tora Tora
- "Father Time" by Shark Island
- "Breakaway" by Big Pig
- "Dangerous" by Shark Island
- "Walk Away" by Bricklin
- "In Time" by Robbie Robb featuring Stevie Salas
- "Two Heads Are Better Than One" by Power Tool
These tracks are ordered for the album differently than they are in the movie. In the movie, the songs appear in the following order: "Breakaway", "Dancing with a Gypsy", "Father Time", "Dangerous", "In Time", "Two Heads Are Better Than One", "The Boys and Girls Are Doing It", "Play with Me", "Walk Away", "Not So Far Away" and "Two Heads" (reprised over the credits).
The following songs appeared in the film but were not included in the soundtrack:
- "No Right to Do Me Wrong" by Range War
- "Party Up" by Rori
- "Bad Guitar" by Stevie 'No Wonder' Salas
- "Carlin's Solo" by Stevie Salas
- "Game of War" by Warrant
A theatrical sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, was released in 1991.
A third theatrical film in the Bill & Ted franchise was planned, and a screenplay was written, though it never got past the pre-production phase. Although rumors claimed that the script was adapted into the 1996 film Bio-Dome, Alex Winter has said that it was not.
In 2010, Reeves indicated that Matheson and Solomon were working on a script for a third film, confirming in April 2011 that a draft was complete. Winter said in March 2012 that he and Reeves both liked the finished script, which revisits the two characters after the changes of the past twenty years. The current script does not feature the return of the Grim Reaper from Bogus Journey, but since actor William Sadler has expressed interest, the writers are considering ways to include the character. In August 2012, Dean Parisot (director of the sci-fi/comedy film Galaxy Quest) signed on to direct the film, although MGM, which holds the rights to the Bill & Ted franchise, did not officially greenlight the film until some years later. In an April 2014 article on the original film's 25th anniversary, Alex Winter reported that work on going ahead with the second sequel was still in progress.
Bill & Ted Face the Music was officially announced to be in pre-production on May 8, 2018. On March 20, 2019 a video featuring Winter and Reeves was posted online which announced the third film in the franchise would be released in the summer of 2020.
Two spin-off television series were produced; both were titled Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures.
- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures was an animated series that first ran on CBS in 1990, and featured the voices of Winter, Reeves and Carlin returning to their roles in the film. A second season of eight episodes ran on Fox Kids, with the voice cast of Fox's then-upcoming live-action series.
- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures was a live-action series that ran only seven episodes on Fox in the summer of 1992. It did not feature any of the cast from the film. Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy played Bill and Ted.
DC Comics produced a tie-in comic following the plot of the first movie timed to coincide with that film's release on home video. The sequel was adapted by DC's competitor Marvel Comics, published to coincide with the second film's release in theaters. Its popularity led to the ongoing Marvel series Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book by Evan Dorkin, which lasted for 12 issues.
There were also Game Boy, NES, and Atari Lynx games released, which were very loosely based on the film's plot. A PC title and nearly identical Amiga and Commodore 64 port were made in 1991 by Off the Wall Productions and IntraCorp, Inc. under contract by Capstone Software and followed the original film very closely.
The annual Halloween Horror Nights events at Universal Studios Orlando and Hollywood have featured since 1992 (Orlando) and 1997-1999/2007 (Hollywood) Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure, a show satirizing pop culture of the year with Bill & Ted as the protagonists fighting villains who steal their phone booth for their own schemes.
The show differs from year to year, with spoofs of various pop culture icons. The main plot involves Bill and Ted being threatened by an evil villain from a popular film of that year, with appearances by a host of villains, heroes, and celebrities. The show usually includes elaborate dance numbers, stunts, and multiple double-entendres for the late night event crowd. In 2013, the Hollywood version of the show was cancelled in the middle of its run following complaints of homophobic humor.
On August 15, 2017, Universal announced that 2017 will be the final year of Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure in Orlando. And on November 4, 2017, Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure came to a final close, but not before a surprise appearance of Rufus.
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